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Shower Water Filters: A Complete Guide

By Tom Saxton Rise Writer
Feb 23, 2021

Our skin is our largest organ; it protects our internals from damaging elements in our environment. However, as we face a deepening global water crisis, many of us might be exposing ourselves to toxins or undesirable chemicals in our tap water. After all, only 3% of the water on the Earth's surface is freshwater, with the rest being salt. Of that 3%, only around 1% is currently accessible by humans. As a universal solvent, water can dissolve more substances than any other liquid on Earth, making it highly vulnerable to pollution. 

Despite this, about 80% of the world's wastewater is dumped, primarily untreated, back into our rivers, streams, and lakes, which are often our municipal freshwater sources. Every time it rains, toxic substances including pesticides, nitrate fertilizers, vehicle oil, heavy metals, and more wash from our farms, towns, and factories into our precious water sources. Everything we flush ends up in a water source one way or another; it doesn't just vanish.

Fortunately, municipal water treatment facilities can filter and remove some of these compounds. But, in doing so, they often add chemicals like chlorine that can cause various skin problems like atopic dermatitis. Chlorine works to kill bacteria but isn't the most pleasant chemical topically for many people. 

For people who get their water from wells and, thus, groundwater, they don't need to consider added chemicals like chlorine or fluoride. However, there are still pollutants that could be lurking in the depths of their wells. Groundwater gets polluted when contaminants such as those previously mentioned make their way into underground aquifers. 

Please don't let this scare you into running to the store to buy as many bottled waters as you can get your hands on. That's not only expensive, but an ecologically destructive habit, and the sources of water used in bottled water often aren't better than what you might already have. 

To protect yourself from water impurities, you can install various home water filter systems, ranging from under-sink filters to whole house filters. But what if those options are too costly? Or perhaps you live in a rental space and need a quick fix? Or maybe you want an added layer of defense to your house filtration system? If so, shower water filters might be an answer.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is a Shower Water Filter?
  2. What Types of Shower Filters Are Available? 
  3. Why Invest in a Shower Filter?
  4. What do Shower Filters Remove From the Water?
  5. Are There Health Benefits to Installing a Shower Filter?
  6. How Long do Shower Filters Last? 
  7. How Much Do Shower Water Filters Cost?
  8. Are Shower Water Filters Cheaper Than Whole Home Filtration?
  9. How To Install Shower Filters?
  10. What Are The Drawbacks of Shower Filters?
  11. What Are The Best Brands of Shower Filters?
  12. Bottom Line
Shower Filter

What Is a Shower Water Filter?

A shower water filter is a filter that attaches directly to a showerhead and filters out various compounds depending on the type of the filter.

Before you buy a shower filter, you should first consider what compounds are in your water, which varies depending on the water source. You can test your water with home kits, send samples to labs, or hire a professional to test various aspects of your water quality. These test results can help you determine if you should invest in a water filter at all, and if so, which filter to pursue.

ShowerStick Shower Filter. Photo Credit: ShowerStick

What Types of Shower Filters Are Available? 

Shower filters can be broken down into two main classes – filtered showerheads, requiring you to swap out your showerhead, and in-line filters, which allow you to use whatever showerhead you like. These products use a variety of different filtration technology, including:

  • Activated Carbon Filters: Often regarded as the most effective all-around filter type that filters a wide variety of compounds. 
  • Vitamin C Media Filters: A Vitamin C filter reduces chlorine and chloramine fluoride but doesn't remove much else. If you are primarily concerned about chlorine, this is a solid choice.
  • KDF filters: KDF filters are made out of zinc and copper, which create a small electrical-chemical charge between them. This works to dissolve mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, and even chlorine.
  • Shower Water Softeners: The ShowerStick is a unique shower water filter that successfully makes your water softer. Not many shower filters can claim this, and if they do, it might not be accurate. The minerals in hard water can cause the top layers of skin to break down and become less effective at holding moisture and protecting you from environmental pollutants. Water softeners utilize a process called ion exchange. As water travels through the ShowerStick, hard water ions such as calcium, magnesium, and iron are attracted and stick to the resin beads due to their opposite electrical charges. After a few showers, the resin needs to be 'regenerated' using a mixture of saltwater poured into the filter is a simple process. The filter comes with a kit to test your water hardness.
Aquasana Filter
Aquasana Filter. Photo Credit: Aquasana

Why Invest in a Shower Filter?

If you live in an area with subpar or questionable water quality, a shower filter can help reduce the chemicals and toxins your skin comes in contact with. But first, remember to test your water to determine if a shower filter is warranted.

If you are prone to skin irritations like redness, eczema, dandruff, psoriasis, or atopic dermatitis, shower water filters have proven effective for many at managing these conditions.

Viva Spring Showerhead Water Filter Brondell
Viva Spring Showerhead Water Filter. Photo Credit: Brondell

What do Shower Filters Remove From the Water?

The answer depends on the type of filter you use. A clarification should be made that filters will reduce targeted compounds from the water, and complete removal can be a misleading term. Shower filters can reduce a host of potentially toxic compounds. Ordinary filters are typically successful in removing:

  • Bacteria 
  • Chlorine (activated carbon filter or Vitamin C media work best)
  • Fluoride
  • Lead
  • Sulfur odor
  • Water-soluble heavy metals 
  • Sediment

More advanced filters can reduce additional compounds such as:

  • Pesticides (activated carbon filters work best)
  • Calcium (salt-based water softeners work best)
  • Magnesium (salt-based water softeners work best)

Some brands claim to remove arsenic, copper, and chromium-6 from water; however, it is unlikely to be successful because reverse osmosis is required to remove these compounds. Reverse osmosis is more suited to a whole house water filtration system. Some brands also claim to act as a water softener; however, this is unlikely unless they utilize a salt-based water softener like the ShowerStick.

AquaBliss SF100 Shower Filter
AquaBliss SF100 Shower Filter. Photo Credit: AquaBliss

Are There Health Benefits to Installing a Shower Filter?

Shower filters can reduce a host of potentially toxic compounds and bacteria from your water supply. Filters can improve the health and condition of your hair and skin.

Berkey Shower Filter
Berkey Shower Filter. Photo Credit: Berkey

How Long do Shower Filters Last? 

The majority of shower filters have a similar life span of 6 months to 1 year; however, this depends on shower lengths and intervals. Many filters last for 10,000 gallons, with some even reaching 25,000 gallons of water filtration capacity. If you choose between various lifespans, choose the longer one to reduce landfill waste and maintenance costs in the long run.

For a filter like the ShowerStick, the water softener will last a decade. Still, it would be best if you recharged it regularly with a saltwater mix, and that interval will depend on how hard your water is. 

Don't forget to take shorter showers to conserve water, which will help the filters last longer.

Culligan Filter
Culligan Shower Filter. Photo Credit: Culligan

How Much Do Shower Water Filters Cost?

Overall, a shower filter is affordable, most often well under $100. The installation costs are much less expensive as it's a more straightforward DIY project. In contrast, a whole house filter might require a professional's help and cost up to several thousand dollars.

Are Shower Water Filters Cheaper Than Whole Home Filtration?

Installing a water softening shower filter like the ShowerStick is significantly cheaper than a whole house water softener. A ShowerStick costs about $200, while a whole house softener could cost several thousand dollars.

Shower water filters are an outstanding option for people on a budget or people renting their living space where they need something simple to install and remove. If you live in a rental unit, a whole house filtration system might not be an option.

How To Install Shower Filters?

Shower water filters are straightforward to install as a DIY project. The process is simple, and each filter will come with a set of instructions. The basic premise is to unscrew your current showerhead from the threaded pipe, screw a filter onto the pipe, then reattach the showerhead to the filter. Some filters might be slightly more complicated to install than others, but a simple task overall. If you can open a jar of jam, you can install a shower filter; there is no need to hire a plumber for this job!

If that's too easy and you are looking to do more bathroom upgrades beyond this, then check out how to build a healthy bathroom!

What Are The Drawbacks of Shower Filters?

Shower water filters can reduce the water pressure and flow ratings of a shower. However, this can be beneficial in improving water efficiency. Different shower filters have different water flow rates. A filter with a slower flow will conserve more water and be more effective at filtering since it moves through the filter more slowly.

Shower filters also come at a cost. While some filter units can be cheaper in the $30 range, others can reach several hundred dollars. On top of that, filter cartridges need to be replaced once or twice a year at an additional cost, albeit cheaper than the initial filter unit cost.

Sprite Shower Filter. Photo Credit: Sprite

What Are The Best Brands of Shower Filters?

Before you go shopping for brands, first determine what you need to filter out of your water and what type of filter works best in achieving that. The market is flooded with shower filters, and they all offer different features, filtering abilities, and longevity. Some filters carry certifications like NSF/ANSI, proving they remove chlorine. In contrast, others carry water efficiency certifications from the US EPA (1.8 gallons per minute flow rate or less). Here are a few familiar brands, but the list certainly does not end here:

AquaBliss High Output Universal Shower

  • Price: USD 59.95
  • Reduces: Chlorine, sediment, odors
  • Filter longevity: 12,000 gallons
  • Flow rate, gallons per minute (GPM): 2
  • Filter Type: In-line, multi-stage filtration with carbon and vitamin C

Sprite High Output Shower Filter

  • Price: USD 26.70 – 53.40 (options depending)
  • Reduces: Chlorine (NSF/ANSI certified), sediment
  • Filter Longevity: 1 year or 25,000 gallons
  • Flow rate (GPM): – 2.5 
  • Filter Type: In-line, KDF media

Culligan WSH-C1215 Wall-Mounted Filtered Shower Head

  • Price: USD 45.99
  • Reduces: Fungus, bacteria, heavy metals, chlorine (NSF/ANSI certified), and sediment. 
  • Filter longevity: 6 months or 10,000 gallons
  • Flow rate (GPM): 1.8 (meets the EPA's WaterSense standard for efficiency 1.8 GPM or less)
  • Filter Type: Showerhead. Granular Activated Carbon with KDF Treatment

Aquasana AQ-4100 Deluxe Shower Water Filter

  • Price: USD 84.99
  • Reduces: Bacteria, chlorine (ANSI/ NSF certified), fungus, and sediment. 
  • Filter longevity: 6 months or 10,000 gallons
  • Flow rate (GPM): 2.5
  • Filter type: In-line & showerhead, copper/zinc media, and coconut carbon

Captain Eco Universal Shower Filter

  • Price: USD 35
  • Reduces: Chlorine, heavy metals, sediment, bacteria, radioactive iodine 131, trihalomethanes, and organic chemicals
  • Filter Longevity: 6-7 months 
  • Flow rate (GPM): 2 
  • Filter type: KDF, carbon, vitamin C, and several other stages

Berkey Shower Filter

  • Price: USD 65
  • Reduces: Chlorine, bacteria, hydrogen sulfide, iron, and iron oxide. Inhibits the growth of bacteria, algae, and fungi
  • Filter Longevity: 1 year or 20,000 gallons 
  • Flow rate (GPM): 2.5 
  • Filter type: In-line Patented high purity blend of zinc, calcium, and copper


  • Price: USD 200 for the entire kit 
  • Reduces: Bacteria, fungus, sediment, and chlorine—unique ability to soften hard water through ion exchange.
  • Longevity: 10 years for water softener filter, 1 year for KDF filter
  • Flow rate (GPM): 1.8 
  • Filter Type: Resin ion exchange and KDF

Bottom Line

If you suffer from skin issues like dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, or atopic dermatitis, it could be a sign from your body that something could be off with your tap water (or your diet). 

Shower filters effectively reduce various compounds, many of which are potentially toxic, from your water. Some are even effective at softening your water. But before you buy the first filter you see, you must determine what compounds are in your water and which of those you want to reduce. You can do this with home water testing kits, samples you send into a lab, or a professional water specialist's help. 

Clean fresh water is a critical resource for all life. Our deepening water crisis is among the most significant challenges we currently face. Clean water is a collective resource that we all have a responsibility to protect through our every action.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-27T19:29:05+0000
Tom Saxton

Article by:

Tom Saxton

Based in Washington State, Tom's education focuses on holistic land management that sustainably grows renewable building materials in a way that replenishes natural systems. His interest is in building systems that combine old techniques and modern science.